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Cutworms causing problems for Big Country mesquite trees

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ABILENE, Texas - Are your mesquite trees looking a bit yellow, or bare of leaves? Maybe you've found small black worms on their trunks.

If so, chances are you have a cutworm infestation, and you're not alone.

The cutworm feeds on the mesquite tree, and according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office in Taylor County, their numbers are far above normal this year.

"It's a unique phenomenon to have as many as we've had," said Robert Pritz with the AgriLife Extension Office. "We've had these mesquite cut worms in our area for years, but I think the weather conditions early on, the wet and cool conditions were ideal for mass hatching of the eggs. So that's why I think we're seeing them in the numbers we have this year."

Though they don't kill the tree, the cutworm - which is actually a caterpillar -- can be a bit of a pain for homeowners.

The good news is that the worms are coming to the end of their caterpillar stage, which means they will start to disappear in a few weeks. If you want to get rid of the ones you have or prevent an infestation, simple pesticides will do the trick.

"Treating the trunk of the tree is the ideal way to prevent damage," Pritz said. "Any of the over-the-counter insecticides will handle it. They're not hard to kill, it's just a matter of getting it on there and staying after it for a period of time. Just make sure it says it's specifically for caterpillars or worms."

Pritz added that the worms are not harmful to humans or pets.

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